As part of my regular personal devotional time, I have been reading through Mark's gospel. Today, I was reading Mark 4:1-9 – the parable of the sower.
As someone training for ministry, I find this parable so reassuring, yet so daunting at the same time. Reassuring as it shows that it isn't all down to me. No matter how much I try to follow Christ, to preach and teach as God calls me to, to show God's love in all I say and do to all those I may minister to, people will reject the good news of the gospel. Or they will take it to heart, but as soon as something serious happens in their lives, they will abandon their new found faith. I am merely the sower and it depends on the ground the message falls on whether the message will go on to produce more grain, though some will and it will be very productive. So long as I focus on God in all I do, then the message I give will be productive one way or the other for God's kingdom.
It's daunting as it places responsibility on me to prepare the ground well. Having preached on this passage to a rural community last year, I was all too aware of the preparation which goes on before a field is sown. Even though farming is much more mechanised now than it was in Jesus day, preparation is still necessary and important for getting the best crop. So, why hadn't the ground been well prepared before the seed was sown? Just seems crazy to go to all the effort to save seed from last year's crop them sow it without preparation. In the context of the message of the gospel, this passage from Mark's gospel seems to be getting to that. So, it's important that I prepare the ground well. I may be walking with people for whom the church is a distant organisation, they don't really think that God is relevant in their lives. As I walk with them, I hope I am preparing the ground well rather than making it rocky or full of weeds, so if I or someone else eventuality sows the gospel, it has a chance to grow and be productive. Unfortunately, I know of many people who have had bad experiences of church and that has made them completely unreceptive to God's love and good news for them. I pray I never do that.